Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The end of a journey, the beginning of a new adventure

I am sick today and my head hurts so this entry may be a bit convoluted. I am at work nonetheless and ‘ganbaru’ing along (trying hard). I suppose I don’t need to be teaching you Japanese words all the time, as I learnt from recent family visits it mostly goes unread; I suppose the writing process is always evolving.

I only had two classes last Monday, giving me time to write my last entry and give my mom a reason to stay at my house and explore my little town for a while; of which she found some neat shops and souvenirs. Before I left she instructed me to harvest details concerning a student’s concert that was rumored to occur Tuesday; information plucked from the interrogation of some mandolin players the week before. Well when the day was out, said students came to my desk and asked if we were coming to the concert. I guess there was no ‘school-concert’ per say as much as it was a private concert for my mom.

Well that was a downer, disappointing those students. Not to mention the time I had to break the news to my mom when I got home: “Oh no! Now I don’t want to go back to the school, I feel so bad.” I asked them if the concert could possibly be moved to Wednesday instead. They had to ask their teacher so it was left up in the air.

Tuesday was normal: mom did teaching, watched club and ate ramen. My sister Melissa and her friend Christine were coming in from Kyoto on Wednesday, so my mom picked them up at the bus stop and took them out to my school in Ina, Yayoi. My little car had trouble holding their large luggage, forcing us to drive up with the hatchback open as they held their bags from falling out. Either way we got to the class and Melissa and Christine got a taste of their first teaching experience.

Unfortunately they couldn’t come in early enough to visit my 3rd years as that would have been a much better first impression; instead they got some 1st years that were too excited from a room full of foreigners to work too hard. Melissa got a good laugh at my self-introduction, mostly the part where I talk about her ill-conceived nickname, “Mel” (It’s a nickname for Melany). Either way when it was the girls’ turn to get up, they weren’t naturals like my mom, Susan. They were nervous, giggling, and then easily tempered when the students couldn’t understand their strange speech; Melissa going so far as banging the chalkboard with her fist on the question she was talking about. This later garnished me more undeserved praise for having patients; of which I don’t really understand, as I’m not a very patient person. I value my time too much, which may be a character flaw.

The end of the school day came quickly enough, and they got to try the Japanese Tea Ceremony. My mom stayed back as far as possible, lest she risk the possibility of being included in drinking the tasty green stuff. We learnt that the band concert was in fact on for Wednesday so we rushed to that after. We got there and the room was very much set up for a performance with 40 to 50 people jammed in this little room… and 4 chairs sitting empty at the very front.

We proceeded to get an hour-long private concert, of which our jaws were dropped for most of it. Susan and I heard some of the songs last week, sure, but that didn’t make them any less wonderful. Melissa was incredulous of their talent, reciting from her band experience and how it took a year to learn that awful “let’s go band” song. Half way through the performance mom kept begging them for a CD that she would “pay whatever you ask” for and “play at home all the time.” Needless to say it was a great time.

Wednesday is a traditional food outing with Neal, and we went out for sushi train at Kappa Sushi. We ate ourselves stupid and had a great time. The plan originally was to bus back to Kyoto on Friday, but having been in my part of the woods for a couple hours left the girls with a thirst for more; plans were quickly made to stay until Sunday.

Thursday I went to work while everyone else went to Ina to meet up with one of my teachers for a day out. They saw the new hospital in Ina and mom quickly changed her opinion of the health care system here. The poor teacher Ono sensei however was interrogated because of the sudden unexpected appearance of 3 foreigners that were taking pictures of everything; they thought they were with some kind of journalist group. They did other things like shop and have Japanese home-style lunch so you’ll have to ask them more on that I suppose; sounded like a good time either way.

They got back as I was getting off work and I managed to talk them in going to the Onsen (spa). I had been working on my mom to go for a long time, but I understand it is scary to go alone for your first time. Now Melissa and Christine were here to put the peer pressure on. Mom was laughing so hard about the situation that she cryed the whole car ride there. She was so nervous and thought it was so funny. I went in alone and had one of my best Onsen experiences yet, possibly because I was alone for the first time in one.

These places are made for relaxing, so the talking and stressful neighbors can be difficult I suppose. I went to the outside bath and found it much hotter than normal, almost scalding. It wasn’t long before I heard loud giggles and voices of complaints on the other side of the wall. “If you don’t move you won’t burn as bad” was among some of the tips I had thrown out; possibly breaking any kosher law set up for those facilities. Either way it was funny hearing the “k I’m moving, everyone look away” requests.

After burning badly, I sat on a nearby bench and just watched flying carps strewn over the nearby lake. It had rained that day so it was cloudy, but there were puffs of smoke rising from the trees, as it seems to happen when rain comes. It was beautiful. I made my way inside later and sat under a waterfall, massaging my back. Then later I drifted over to a bubbling area and floated in its massaging grasp for a while. Again, one of my better experiences, and to my delight the girls liked it as well. It would have been even better if they weren’t stressing each other all the time with giggles and nervous stares.

We went out for ramen with Jake and Junko after so the girls could try Japanese Ramen. After the delicious meal, we trekked to a local pub called “The Oread” where the guy running the place translates music for Sony (perhaps you remember from an earlier entry of mine). The owner treated us to live music and wonderful company; it is a delightful little place.

On Friday I got up to work while everyone else slept in again, much to my rabid jealousy and grumbling. They joined later though and had a real treat with my 3rd years; they had a great time answering and giving questions. The girls got a good tip on shopping at a nearby mall and got directions on a map how to get there. After the class they took up the tip and went out shopping for a bit, but came back in time for clubs again.

The girls shamelessly asked for kendo sticks, the expensive kind everyone is surprised that my mom got. The club couldn’t part with more new ones so they got used ones, but they were still happy; they even got to try them out on the students. Later we watched archery where Christine got an arrow for a present, then later we went to watch soccer and baseball but were careful not to mingle too much, less they get a soccer ball as a present or something considering the current trend.

We were happy to know a work party was happening that Friday and made our way out there. We were treated to a room of 2nd year homeroom teachers, of which most didn’t know English. I heard then nervously asking each other when and if Uchiyama sensei would join us. The way homerooms are split up, is a teacher from each of the faculties heads a room and is basically those given students ‘parents’ for the duration of their high school career, and Uchiyama sensei, my caretaker, is from the English faculty. We did ok though until she showed up with my limited Japanese and gestures.

The food was tasty and the drinks were plentiful. The girls picked a seat near the portable heaters and didn’t move far from them all night; in fact they migrated closer as the night went on. They learnt how to never pour your own drink and how to say cheers among other things. I got them to try chu-hi finally, a nice little treat Japan offers. Before I knew it I was trying to keep up with Melissa… or maybe I just thought I was trying to keep up with her, but either way we were drinking fast and amassed an impressive collection of empty bottles in front of us.

Christine kept trying to buy the tracksuit off the one teacher's back but couldn't due to sentimental value (Wedding present from a Student) and got information where to go to buy a school uniform. When all was said and done at the first party I begged everyone for a “nijikai” (second party) with good results (a teacher later told me I was screaming on the streets for karaoke). The phones came out and the other work parties were called to rally supporters; I also messaged Jake and Junko to join and then the shenanigans were in full swing minus mom who went home on the account of fatigue.

We went to a nice little bar where most of the next 2 hours were fuzzy, something of a first for me, as my memory is always good the next day… with few exceptions. Together, and with the help of others and clues strewn about, we were all able to piece together parts of our escapade. First off, the drinks got stronger: I was on to so-chu (different from chu-hi; drank mostly with water similar to sake) while Melissa was on to straight vodka (confirmed from my co-worker last night, she probably doesn’t know that yet) and Christine was on to straight whiskey (confirmed by Jake after Christine wondered if her drink was strong or not).

I quickly gave up on the karaoke machine because I was given the Japanese songbook and not the English one, and I traded stories with people around me. While Christine and Melissa were friendly with our company at first, they quickly attacked the microphones. Melissa started off with 2 Brittany Spears songs, and she jumped up and down screaming in excitement. Once that was done she sang (with help by me on many occasions) no less than 4 Bon Jovi songs in a row. We were singing so bad we got mad at the karaoke machine a couple times for playing the songs “at the wrong speed” and whatever excuses we made. Christine played a video she took on her camera the next day, and all 20 seconds of it was incomprehensible loud noises courtesy of the speakers bent to Melissa’s foul bidding; we honestly couldn’t make out a word minus the laughing.

I think there was food… there most likely was and I probably ate it. I saw later on my phone that the girls tried a number of times to call Canada from my cell phone; luck for me they were unsuccessful. I heard many times last night now surprised everyone was about Friday: “They are so strong! They drank so much!” Of course no time that good can pass without any repercussions. Christine was sick for most of the day Saturday, I had a bad headache and Melissa was groggy. Plans to see Matsumoto castle were eventually swept away in place of 2 or 3 movies and whatever else we watched while lying on my floor, but we were all happy though as we knew it was worth it.

When we did go out, we went shopping at a nearby place I hardly knew existed although it’s apparently immensely popular. For the first shopping trip, Christine stayed at home and I slept in the car while Melissa and Susan did their thing. I woke up to see Melissa talking with 2 ladies outside the door so I worked up the strength to stumble over and see if they needed translation help; what little I can give I guess. It turns out Melissa was scouted by these two ladies and they asked her to do modeling work for them.

That’s right; in my little town Melissa got a job. Emails were exchanged and they talked mostly to me and Susan even though Melissa was standing right there; somewhat dazed from the hangover and all the events that were unfolding. She was given pricey sunglasses as presents to try out and said she would return next year sometime as she was off to Kyoto Sunday. Either way that’s pretty cool; I’m a little sad I didn’t get a job too but let’s blame it on Melissa having longer hair.

Later on in the day Christine was feeling well enough to get out of the house so they all went shopping again for another hour or so at the same store; I played games in the car. They spent time packing for home with much difficulty as they bought so much and things like their kendo sticks were so big. They took a football-equipment-like bag of mine that I came to Japan with and still had trouble packing everything in. I made a quick supper that everyone enjoyed and we relaxed, enjoying our last night together. We got some company late that night, as rumors of how cool Susan is have been running around, so Jake, Charity and Jon came over for a short visit.

Sunday came and it was time for them to leave. Mom was strong and didn’t cry so I’m very proud of her; I still remember how hard our goodbye in Vancouver was last year. I proceeded to clean my house for the next couple hours and spent the rest of the day sick for the first time in the 9 months I’ve been here. Just simple flu symptoms I guess: sweats, headache, sore muscles… I was so stubborn to not go to bed though as there was so much I wanted to do with the free time I suddenly had after 4 weeks or so: gaming news to read, cartoons to watch and so on.

I was feeling a bit better Monday, but not good enough to post this “on time” it seems. I have no idea when my next entry will go up (maybe thurs?), as I’m off on a camping trip in the deep south of Japan (12-hour drive! We’re renting a 9-man van!) It should be fun, I don’t like talking about future plans but hopefully that teaser will help you with the long wait :)

"Better by far you should forget and smile than you should remember and be sad." -Christina Rossetti



Unknown said...

Drunken karaoke madness with friends and family from back home, and Bon Jovi no less! Sounds like the good times are still rolling man. Take Care!

Patricia said...

I wish I could have been there!! Hopefully next year the trip happens after tax season~


Tnoy said...

Heh if only there were a stronger word for shenanigans as it was a mess. Good times.

You're welcome anytime there patty, don't feel you need to wait; although some notice would be nice as holidays aren't that flexible most times.

Glad you guys like the stories :)